Queen Elizabeth II 

I was so surprised to see a portrait of Queen Elizabeth 11 with her eyes closed! To find out how and why read on...

Tudors to Windsors:British Royal Portraits - Bendigo Art Gallery,  traces the history of the British monarchy across five royal dynasties: the Tudors, Stuarts, Georgians, Victorians and the Windsors from the sixteenth century to the present.

This exhibition also offers insight into the development of British art including works by Sir Peter Lely and Sir Godfrey Kneller to Cecil Beaton and Annie Leibovitz.

To bring these royal figures to life, Bendigo Art Gallery has secured key loans of historic fashion, armour and personal effects which will be featured alongside these magnificent and imposing portraits including the famous Ditchley Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, which measures over 2m high and is circa 1592.

Queen Elizabeth I "The Ditchley Portrait"- Credit National Portrait Gallery London

“The portrait shows Elizabeth standing on the globe of the world, with her feet on Oxfordshire. The stormy sky, the clouds parting to reveal sunshine, and the inscriptions on the painting, make it plain that the portrait's symbolic theme is forgiveness….”. (Credit Bendigo Art Gallery)

There were other interesting pieces that related to the Royals in advertising, tourism and film.

In this lithograph below from 1940, Queen Victoria appears on a citrus fruit box label in Southern California. “The image is based on the well-known portraits by Bassano, which circulated in connection with Victoria’s jubilee celebrations in 1887”.

Queen Victoria 

Queen Elizabeth I can be seen in a poster from 1952 “Where History Lingers:Canterbury”. It shows an imaginary scene from a real event: Elizabeth’s visit to the town in 1573, which coincided with her 40th birthday. Here she is shown in procession at Canterbury Cathedral.

Queen Elizabeth I

Glenda Jackson (playing Queen Elizabeth 1) was photographed on the set of Mary Queen of Scots by Terry O’Neill in 1971. A bromide print by O'Neill is shown below. Jackson played opposite Vanessa Redgrave as Mary; they competed in the best actress category in the Golden Globes both being trumped by Jane Fonda in Klute.

Glenda Jackson as Queen Elizabeth I

Of course, The Windsors was one of the most popular areas of the exhibition with beautiful portraits and photographs of many family members. The portrait of Diana Princess of Wales by Bryan Organ, acrylic on canvas (c.1981) and photograph by Mario Testino (1997) “being the last official photographs to be taken of Diana before her death in a car accident in August 1997” were two of the more poignant images of The Royal Family.

Many of the photographs were taken in lighthearted occasions enjoying every day pursuits like playing with the dog.

As promised here is the answer as to Why did Queen Elizabeth 11 have her eyes closed?
"In this innovative portrait (see above), the artist Chris Levine used a lenticular lens, combining multiple still images…, to create an illusion of depth and movement. Each exposure required at least 8 seconds. Resting between shots, the Queen closed her eyes just as the image was taken. Caught between her public persona and private self, the resulting portrait is one of the most haunting and ethereal images of the most portrayed person in British history. At once immediate and remote, it provides a rare insight into the vulnerability of power". (Credit: Bendigo Art Gallery)

It certainly captured my attention and that of my friends. What is your reaction to this portrait?


As an added bonus I was able to visit the exhibition running concurrently Defining the Australian Ugliness, curated by Jessica Bridgfoot, the new Director of the Bendigo Art Gallery who Anne wrote about recently.

Featured amongst others were Margaret Preston (1875 – 1963)

Monstera deliciosa 1934

and Dorothy Braund (1926-2013) both of whom we will feature in future blogs.

If you are interested in learning more about the exhibition, here is a link to a great video from the curators of the exhibition.